Tom, Field & Willey
My go-to hike for less-than-ideal weather
This was the third time Rye and I have hiked Tom, Field and Willey as it’s our go-to for a pretty difficult hike on days when I don’t want to be above treeline. Looking at the weather, strong winds leading to very cold temps made for a great day below treeline. As an aside, I don’t think the weather was that nasty in the end, but I still enjoyed my time on Tom, Field and Willey, per usual.
Having read a trail report from Monday, I put my snowshoes on right at the parking lot at the AMC Highland Center, and I never took them off. I passed two groups heading up the moderately rising Avalon trail who didn’t have snowshoes on, and the trail would have been fine with microspikes, though my snowshoes were very nice to have once we got to Mt. Tom Spur Trail and for the rest of the journey.
Avalon trail rises and falls gently through the woods for 1.4 miles before splitting off onto A-Z trail to the right. I could see that from there, Avalon trail was unbroken, and I was looking forward to bombing it in my snowshoes on the way down (much easier than breaking a trail uphill…). A-Z trail continues to rise steadily, but moderately, then we made a sharp right onto Mt. Tom Spur Trail at 2.3 miles.
Monday’s snow made all the trails gorgeously white, and some fresh confetti flakes started falling as we approached the summit of Mt. Tom (2.7mi). No views, but also no wind. We headed back down the (0.6mi) spur and turned right back onto A-Z trail (3.3mi) for a short section before turning left on Willey Range Trail (3.4mi).
Willey Range was a little less broken, and very pretty with the snow. We marched upwards steadily but still pretty gradually through the quiet forest, and reached Avalon Trail (4.1mi) then had a short and steep climb 100 yards to the summit of Mt. Field. Again, no views, but still very pretty.
Avalon trail descends steeply from Mt. Field before rising and falling a couple times. It always feels like a bit longer of a stretch than I had remembered, though perhaps that’s also the knowledge that I will have to turn around and repeat this section (with all of its elevation gain) on my way back. We reached the unimpressive summit of Mt. Willey at 5.5 miles. On the way back down Avalon Trail, we had some views back toward Mt. Field, which made me excited to get down to Mt. Avalon, the unsung hero (or maybe just the non-4000 footer) of this loop, for its incredible views.
We passed over the summit of Mt. Field for the second time, then continued on Avalon trail at the junction with Mt. Willey Range (6.8mi) before having the time of my life bombing down an only lightly broken steep trail with so much fresh snow. It felt like flying through the bright white forest. This is why I love winter hiking.
The not-to-miss Mt Avalon is up a short but steep spur trail at 7.9mi. By this time, the clouds had mostly cleared and I had a 360 degree view with the Presidentials (socked in) in front of me, and the tree-covered Mt. Willey and Field behind me. It wasn’t windy at all, but I still think I made the better decision to skip the exposure of the Presidentials. We bombed the rest of the way down Avalon, passing a brave soul making his way up it, and then had a leisurely stroll back down to the parking lot.
Overall, 10/10 day in the Whites as they truly lived up to their name and made winter great again.